A CONSTRUCTIVE summit was held to discuss and agree a way forward to tackle the gap in achievement across schools in Reading, between leading councillors, headteachers, senior officers, key representatives from Ofsted and the South East Schools Commissioner.
Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education Cllr Tony Jones and the Director of Children’s Services Helen McMullen welcomed guests, including two representative headteachers, Ofsted Regional Director Bradley Simmons and Regional Schools Commissioner Martin Post, to the round-table summit on Friday 22nd July.
The meeting was attended by Reading East MP Rob Wilson, a representative from Reading West MP Alok Sharma’s office and was chaired by council leader Cllr Jo Lovelock.
The council called the meeting because of their concern about the gap between the achievements of children from the poorest backgrounds in Reading and their better off peers, and to make sure that Ofsted and the Academies Division in the Department for Education all recognise the challenges but, more importantly, work together to address the gap.
Topics discussed at the meeting included the difficulties local authorities face in driving forward improvements in schools when many of them are not under the council’s control.
Eight out of 10 secondary schools in Reading are academies and this is soon to increase to nine.
The council also put forward its case for Reading to be supported by the Department for Education to establish funding for a project similar to the London and Manchester Challenges which resulted in significant improvement in achievements for children in those cities.
A bid will now be submitted to the South East Schools Commissioner to take the project forward with the Virtual College of School Leadership, which holds the funding for such projects.
It was also agreed to strengthen the sharing of the challenge which a number of academies are facing and take forward the Reading First Partnership to drive forward school-to-school support.
All schools in Reading have a level of expertise and it is important to build upon this but the challenges remain, particularly in driving up standards for white children living in poor environments with little chance of doing home study, who have poor attendance or who have been excluded.
Regional Schools Commissioner, Mr Post, agreed to a greater degree of dialogue with Reading Borough Council, including regular meetings with the Director and Head of Education.
Cllr Jones said: “It was helpful to get the key people around the table to talk about the challenges we face here in Reading and it was a positive and constructive meeting. We now need to see more actions and proof of this partnership work to improve the life chances of a significant number of children and young people.
“We already have good partnership arrangements in place focused on providing Reading children with the best possible education regardless of their background or whether they attend academies or community schools.
“I’m grateful for the time people gave to attend the meeting and I look forward to a closer working relationship with Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner.”